Election Night parties Drink, mingle and scrounge for food

You can’t go wrong with pigs in a blanket, shrimp-filled spring rolls, an extensive cheese plate with dried apricots, figs and cranberries and an elaborate plate of colorful pastries, as was the case at the University Club’s GOP party on election night. 

Even the waiter with the pigs in a blanket sneaked one into his mouth as he carried a large tray of them to the silver chafing dishes.

But some election-night partygoers weren’t so lucky.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee party at the Hyatt Regency, for example, was barren of food for much of the evening. The silver dishes were open, promising and filled with water. But no food could be found until late into the night when they finally brought out a smorgasbord of baba ganoush, mini-hamburgers and corndogs on sticks.

Upstairs at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s shindig, the scene was not as bleak, though still a serious disappoint to the average gourmand. The spread resembled a picnic table at a child’s camp rather than a spread for adults — cold cuts, crackers and a plate of chopped raw peppers, carrots, celery, cauliflower and cherry tomatoes. No dipping sauces or salad dressings to be found.

The Glover Park Group’s party at the Billy Goat Tavern was a great example of how you don’t have to offer upscale fare to please guests, who in this case were invited to approach the grill and order what they wanted. Choices at this Chicago-born greasy spoon included cheeseburgers, french fries, and grilled cheese and rib-eye steak sandwiches.

To underscore the Democrats’ giddiness, a drink special on the wall advertised the Horny Billy Goat, a concoction of Bacardi Limon, cranberry juice and Southern Comfort.

Campaigns & Elections magazine’s bash was at Lucky Strike bowling alley in Chinatown. Hors d’oeuvres were handed out liberally throughout the evening by waitresses dressed in short black skirts and, in some cases, fishnet stockings.

At the election-watching party Gloria Dittus threw in her Kalorama house, the spread was as fancy as the guests. PR and society types feasted on piles of comfort food, chicken and shrimp pot pie, deviled eggs, ham, and roast beef. Classic cocktail food such as shrimp cocktail also was on the buffet.

At the clubby 701 restaurant, Democratic lobbyist Lyndon Boozer held court for a stylish young crowd. The drinks were free-flowing, but the pretty people seemed barely to notice the trays of hearty burgers that waiters passed around.

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The thick smell of stale cigar smoke hung heavily in the Keefer Memorial Library of the University Club, where Will Black, of Oxford Communications, was host. The library, once John F. Kennedy’s playpen where he took naps on the sofas, was a GOP stronghold for the evening.

One female guest summed up her feelings, saying, “I feel like I am at a wake.” She then dug into the lavish cheese spread.

Black, who was drinking white wine, was a welcoming host who did everything he could to lift the spirits of his GOP guests. “Come on in, have a drink,” he said in his southern twang, handing out raffle tickets that could win guests anything from an iPod to a copy of the Communist Manifesto.

Black said he wasn’t so much upset about the Democrats taking charge as he is concerned. “The president will have to use his veto pen he seems to have misplaced the past few years,” he remarked.

He was not sure if white wine would be strong enough, given the way the results were heading. “Depending on how the returns come in, that might progress to grain alcohol,” he said.

Fox News was the party’s TV station of choice. But elections were not the only news of the evening. At 5:30 p.m., Shepard Smith came on to announce that “Ninety minutes ago we learned that Britney Spears filed for divorce from Kevin Federline.”

Dennis Griesling, one of the lone Democrats in the room, was jubilantly drinking his red wine. A former campaign staffer to Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), Griesling, now a lobbyist for the Soap and Detergent Association, was in good spirits for a correctly anticipated Lieberman win. Sipping happily, he remarked, “It was Lipitor or oatmeal and red wine.”

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The scene inside the Billy Goat Tavern was bright and festive and filled with Clinton-administration Democrats. “Open bar, open food, whatever you guys like,” said one barman with a proprietary air.

Partygoers were giddy with excitement. Some fell prey to exaggeration. “We’re taking over the White House tomorrow,” joked Glover Park Group’s Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary under Clinton. More earnestly he remarked that the Democrats captured the “idea that the American government has become completely unaccountable.”

Lockhart, drinking a plastic cup of beer, said he couldn’t be happier with the food. “It was the best cheeseburger I’ve had today,” he said.

Former Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.), now a lobbyist with Downey McGrath, was eating a cheeseburger and reading the walls. “I’m eating too quickly to really appreciate it,” he said, nearly done. “I think tonight is going to be the best night since 1996 when Clinton won reelection.”

Other recognizable figures in the room included Clinton’s National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. “It will be good to have some balance,” he said of a newly Democratic House.

John Podesta, who runs the Center for American Progress, was also in the crowd. Sipping red wine, he remarked, “I think the Republicans are going to get drubbed tonight.” When a partygoer warned that his remarks would be in the newspaper, he replied, “That’s D-R-U-B-B-E-D.”

Podesta said his favorite GOP losses would be those of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Sen. George Allen (R-Va.).

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Inside Campaigns & Elections magazine’s blowout at Lucky Strike, Missy Elliot’s “Supersonic” was thumping loudly throughout the space. Hors d’oeuvres included goat-cheese torts with roasted tomatoes, barbecued chicken, chicken with ranch dressing, coconut shrimp, and  vegetable pizzas.

“American politics is real personal, dirty and there’s a lot of mudslinging,” said Christopher Evans, an Australian wearing a tie covered in GOP elephants and a shirt with elephant cufflinks. “If I lived here I’d be a Republican.” Evans is part of a bipartisan group of Australians that has been touring the country working with campaigns to learn about the political process. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Allen are among the politicians he sought to help.

One man, whose wife works for a senator, forecast that the Republicans would pluck victory from the jaws of defeat, then revealed that he was one of those who had jumped ship, saying, “I’m a Florida voter and I voted against [Rep. Katherine] Harris [R-Fla.]. Most Republicans don’t like her.”

News of the Britney/K-Fed breakup seeped through to the bowling lanes. As one GOP operative who was frantically dialing on his cell phone to confer with colleagues on House results put it: “Hopefully, it does not hurt the redneck vote in the South.”

One player named himself K-Fed and won the game. But the would-be K-Fed said he could not care less about election results, adding, “It is going to be the same no matter what.”

He was not alone. The crowd of mostly 20-somethings was more intent on catching up with their friends, moving to the Top-40 sounds, and bowling than looking toward the large TV screens.  They were also sipping on drink specials: pomegranate and blueberry Martinis.

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At the DCCC’ Hyatt Regency party, drinks were, oddly, served in red bottles. The Democrats went for mini-burgers, hummus, baba ganoush and tabouleh, and assorted cheeses.

The media didn’t fare well. They were relegated to a separate dining area and offered soggy grilled vegetable sandwiches and cookies apparently left over from a middle-school lunch.

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Overheard:

At the University Club, a man leaning on the bar late afternoon sipping white wine remarked:
“Well, Reynolds is going to win.”
 
At Lucky Strike: “You’re wearing blue.”
Friend: “You’re wearing red. No it’s orange.”

At the Hyatt Regency, a guy at the crowded bar remarked: “How’d she get a beer so easily?”

At the Hyatt Regency, a man gave the thumbs down sign to Santorum and produced the mildly disgusting sound of a deflating tire.

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Emily Heil contributed to this report.